Errico Malatesta (14 December 1853 – 22 July 1932) was an Italian anarchist. He spent much of his life exiled from Italy and in total spent more than ten years in prison. Malatesta wrote and edited a number of radical newspapers and was also a friend of Mikhail Bakunin.
|Born||14 December 1853|
|Died||22 July 1932 (aged 78)|
Rome, Kingdom of Italy
|Occupation||Social and political activist, writer, revolutionary|
Errico Malatesta was born to a family of middle-class landowners in Santa Maria Capua Vetere, Italy (in the province of Caserta) on 14 December 1853. More distantly, his ancestors ruled Rimini as the House of Malatesta. The first of a long series of arrests came at age fourteen, when he was apprehended for writing an "insolent and threatening" letter to King Victor Emmanuel II.
Malatesta was introduced to Mazzinian Republicanism while studying medicine at the University of Naples; however, he was expelled from the university in 1871 for joining a demonstration. Partly via his enthusiasm for the Paris Commune and partly via his friendship with Carmelo Palladino, he joined the Naples section of the International Workingmen's Association that same year, as well as teaching himself to be a mechanic and electrician. In 1872 he met Mikhail Bakunin, with whom he participated in the St Imier congress of the International. For the next four years, Malatesta helped spread Internationalist propaganda in Italy; he was imprisoned twice for these activities. Following Bakunin, Malatesta became a freemason at Naples on 19 October 1875, hoping to influence younger members. However, when the lodge organised a reception honouring Giovanni Nicotera, the Interior Minister, Malatesta left on 18 March 1876 and became anti-Masonic.
In April 1877, Malatesta, Carlo Cafiero, the Russian Stepniak and about thirty others started an insurrection in the province of Benevento, taking the villages of Letino and Gallo without a struggle. The revolutionaries burned tax registers and declared the end of the King's reign and were met by enthusiasm. After leaving Gallo, however, they were arrested by government troops and held for sixteen months before being acquitted. After Giovanni Passannante's murder attempt on the king Umberto I, the radicals were kept under constant surveillance by the police. Even though the anarchists claimed to have no connection to Passannante, Malatesta, being an advocate of social revolution, was included in this surveillance. After returning to Naples, he was forced to leave Italy altogether in the fall of 1878 because of these conditions, beginning his life in exile.
He went to Egypt briefly, visiting some Italian friends but was soon expelled by the Italian Consul. After working his passage on a French ship and being refused entry to Syria, Turkey and Italy, he landed in Marseille where he made his way to Geneva, Switzerland – then something of an anarchist centre. It was there that he befriended Élisée Reclus and Peter Kropotkin, helping the latter to produce La Révolte. The Swiss respite was brief, however, and after a few months he was expelled from Switzerland, traveling first to Romania before reaching Paris, where he worked briefly as a mechanic.
In 1881 he set out for a new home in London. He would come and go from that city for the next 40 years.
There Malatesta worked as an ice cream seller and a mechanic. Malatesta's mistress in the 1870s, Emilia Tronzio, was the step-sister of the internationalist Tito Zanardelli. With Malatesta's consent and support she married Giovanni Defendi, who came to stay with Malatesta in London in 1881 after being released from jail.
Malatesta attended the Anarchist Congress that met in London from 14 July 1881. Other delegates included Peter Kropotkin, Francesco Saverio Merlino, Marie Le Compte, Louise Michel and Émile Gautier. While respecting "complete autonomy of local groups" the congress defined propaganda actions that all could follow and agreed that "propaganda by the deed" was the path to social revolution.
With the outbreak of the Anglo-Egyptian War in 1882, Malatesta organized a small group to help fight against the British. In August, he and three other men departed for Egypt. They landed in Abu Qir, then travelled towards Ramleh, Alexandria. After a difficult crossing of Lake Mariout, they were surrounded and detained by British forces, without having undertaken any fighting. He secretly returned to Italy the following year.
In Florence he founded the weekly anarchist paper La Questione Sociale (The Social Question) in which his most popular pamphlet, Fra Contadini (Among Farmers), first appeared. Malatesta went back to Naples in 1884—while waiting to serve a three-year prison term—to nurse the victims of a cholera epidemic. Once again, he fled Italy to escape imprisonment, this time heading for South America. He lived in Buenos Aires from 1885 until 1889, resuming publication of La Questione Sociale and spreading anarchist ideas among the Italian émigré community there. He was involved in the founding of the first militant workers' union in Argentina, the bakers union, and left an anarchist impression in the workers' movements there for years to come.
The late 1890s were a time of social turmoil in Italy, marked by bad harvests, rising prices, and peasant revolts. Strikes of workers were met by demands for repression and for a time it seemed as though government authority was hanging by a thread. Malatesta found the situation irresistible and early in 1898 he returned to the port city of Ancona to take part in the blossoming anarchist movement among the dockworkers there. Malatesta was soon identified as a leader during street fighting with police and arrested; he was therefore unable to participate further in the dramatic industrial and political actions of 1898 and 1899.
From jail Malatesta took a hard line against participation in elections on behalf of liberal and socialist politicians, contradicting Saverio Merlino and other anarchist leaders who argued in favor of electoral participation as an emergency measure during times of social turmoil. Malatesta was convicted of "seditious association"and sentenced to a term of imprisonment on the island of Lampedusa. He was able to escape from prison in May 1899, however, and he was able to make his way home to London via Malta and Gibraltar. His escape occurred with the help of comrades around the world, including anarchists in Paterson, New Jersey, London, and Tunis, who helped arrange for him to leave the island on the ship of Greek sponge fishermen, who took him to Sousse.
In subsequent years Malatesta visited the United States, speaking there to anarchists in the Italian and Spanish immigrant communities. Home again in London, he was closely watched by the police, who increasingly regarded anarchists as a threat following the July 1900 assassination of Umberto I by an Italian anarchist who had been living in Paterson, New Jersey.
By 1910 he had opened an electrical workshop in London at 15 Duncan Terrace Islington and allowed the jewel thief George Gardenstein to use his premises. On 15 January 1910 he sold oxyacetylene cutting equipment for £5 (£500 at 2013 monetary values) to George Gardenstein so that he could break into the safe at H.S.Harris jewellers Houndsditch. Gardenstein led the gang that mounted the abortive Houndsditch robbery that is the precursor to the Siege of Sidney Street. Malatesta's cutting gear is on permanent display at the City of London Police museum at Wood St police station.
While based in London, Malatesta made clandestine trips to France, Switzerland and Italy and went on a lecture tour of Spain with Fernando Tarrida del Mármol. During this time he wrote several important pamphlets, including L'Anarchia. Malatesta then took part in the International Anarchist Congress of Amsterdam (1907), where he debated in particular with Pierre Monatte on the relation between anarchism and syndicalism (or trade-unionism). The latter thought that syndicalism was revolutionary and would create the conditions of a social revolution, while Malatesta considered that syndicalism by itself was not sufficient. (see on Labor Unions, below). In 1912, Malatesta appeared in Bow Street Police Court on a criminal libel (defamation) charge, which resulted in a 3-month prison sentence, and his recommendation for deportation. This order was quashed following campaigning by the radical press and demonstrations by workers organisations.
After the First World War, Malatesta eventually returned to Italy for the final time. Two years after his return, in 1921, the Italian government imprisoned him, again, although he was released two months before the fascists came to power. From 1924 until 1926, when Benito Mussolini silenced all independent press, Malatesta published the journal Pensiero e Volontà, although he was harassed and the journal suffered from government censorship. He was to spend his remaining years leading a relatively quiet life, earning a living as an electrician. After years of suffering from a weak respiratory system and regular bronchial attacks, he developed bronchial pneumonia from which he died after a few weeks, despite being given 1500 litres of oxygen in his last five hours. He died on Friday 22 July 1932. He was an atheist.
He argued with Pierre Monatte at the Amsterdam Conference of 1907 against pure syndicalism. Malatesta thought that trade-unions were reformist, and could even be, at times, conservative. Along with Christiaan Cornelissen, he cited as example US trade-unions, where trade-unions composed of skilled qualified workers sometimes opposed themselves to un-skilled workers in order to defend their relatively privileged position. Malatesta warned that the syndicalists aims were in perpetuating syndicalism itself, whereas anarchists must always have overthrowing capitalism and the state, and the anarchist ideal of communist society as their end, and consequently refrain from committing to any particular method of achieving it.
His arguments against the doctrine of revolutionary unions known as anarcho-syndicalism were later developed in a series of articles, where he wrote "I am against syndicalism, both as a doctrine and a practice, because it strikes me as a hybrid creature." Despite their drawbacks, he advocated activity in the trade unions, both because they were necessary for the organization and self-defense of workers under a capitalist state regime, and as a way of reaching broader masses. Anarchists should have discussion groups in unions, as in factories, barracks and schools, but "anarchists should not want the unions to be anarchist."
He thought that, like all unions, "Syndicalism...is by nature reformist." While anarchists should be active in the rank and file, he said "any anarchist who has agreed to become a permanent and salaried official of a trade union is lost to anarchism."
While some anarchists wanted to split from conservative unions to form revolutionary syndicalist unions, Malatesta predicted they would either remain an "affinity group" with no influence, or go through the same process of bureaucratization as the unions they left. This early statement of what would come to be known as "the rank-and-file strategy" remained a minority position within anarchism, but Malatesta's ideas did have echoes in the anarchists Jean Grave and Vittorio Aurelio.
Malatesta was a committed revolutionary: he believed that the anarchist revolution was inevitable, and that violence would be a necessary part of it since the state rested ultimately on violent coercion. As he wrote in his article "The Revolutionary 'Haste'":
However, Malatesta himself denounced the use of terrorism and violent physical force, stating in one of his essays:
Violence (physical force) used to another's hurt, which is the most brutal form of struggle between men can assume, is eminently corrupting. It tends, by its very nature, to suffocate the best sentiments of man, and to develop all the antisocial qualities, ferocity, hatred, revenge, the spirit of domination and tyranny, contempt of the weak, servility towards the strong. And this harmful tendency arises also when violence is used for a good end. ... Anarchists who rebel against every sort of oppression and struggle for the integral liberty of each and who ought thus to shrink instinctively from all acts of violence which cease to be mere resistance to oppression and become oppressive in their turn are also liable to fall into the abyss of brutal force. ... The excitement caused by some recent explosions and the admiration for the courage with which the bomb-throwers faced death, suffices to cause many anarchists to forget their program, and to enter on a path which is the most absolute negation of all anarchist ideas and sentiments.
Anarchism and violence have become closely connected in popular thought, in part because of a concept of "propaganda of the deed". Propaganda of the deed, or attentát, was espoused by leading anarchists in the late nineteenth century, and was associated with a number of incidents of violence. Anarchist thought, however, is quite diverse on the question of violence. In the name of coherence some anarchists have opposed coercion, while others have supported it, particularly in the form of violent revolution on the path to anarchy. Anarchism includes a school of thought which rejects all violence (anarcho-pacifism).
Many anarchists regard the state to be at the definitional center of structural violence: directly or indirectly preventing people from meeting their basic needs, calling for violence as self-defense.Perhaps the first anarchist periodical was named The Peaceful Revolutionist, a strain of anarchism that followed Tolstoy's pacifism.Anarchism in Egypt
Anarchism in Egypt refers both to the historical Egyptian anarchist movement which emerged in the 1860s and lasted until the 1940s, and to the anarchist movement as it has re-emerged in the early 2000s.Anarchism in Italy
Italian anarchism as a movement began primarily from the influence of Mikhail Bakunin, Giuseppe Fanelli, and Errico Malatesta. From there it expanded to include illegalist individualist anarchism and anarcho-syndicalism. It participated in the biennio rosso and survived fascism. The synthesist Italian Anarchist Federation appeared after the war, and the old factions alongside platformism and insurrectionary anarchism continue today.Anarchy (book)
In his pamphlet Anarchy (Italian: L'anarchia), published in 1891, Errico Malatesta seeks to explain the fundamental tenets of, and provide a persuasive argument for, his version of anarchism. According to Worldcat, it has been published in fifty-five editions between 1892 and 2004 in eight languages and is held by 139 libraries worldwide.Anti-statism
Anti-statism is opposition to state intervention into personal, social and economic affairs. Anti-statism means opposition to the state and any artificial form of government and it differs from traditional anarchism which means the opposition not only to the state, but to any form of rulership.Columna Libertaria Joaquin Penina
The Columna Libertaria Joaquin Penina – in English: Joaquin Penina Libertarian Column (CLJP) – is a regional anarchist political organization from Rosario, Argentina. It was founded in late 2008.
The name refers to Joaquin Penina, an anarchist bricklayer from Rosario who disappeared in 1930 by the dictatorship of José Félix Uriburu. The CLJP aligns in the specifism tendency, ideological trend influenced by Mikhail Bakunin, Errico Malatesta, Luigi Fabbri, Camillo Berneri, Ricardo Flores Magon, Ettore Mattei, Carlo Cafiero and others. The organization argues in its written the need to support anarchist organizations then regional federations.
His stated intention as an organization is to influence with libertarian principles and ethics in the various social struggles, including those of union, territorial and cultural youths. The organization also participated in international solidarity campaigns. Regularly engaged in ideological propaganda in various parts of their city and country.Dielo Truda
Workers' Cause (Russian: Дело Труда, Delo Truda) was an anarchist and platformist journal first published 1925 by a society called the Group of Russian Anarchists Abroad.
Russian political exiles formed the group in Paris after the Russian Revolution of 1917. Among the members were Nestor Makhno, Piotr Arshinov, Gregori Maximoff, Ida Mett, and Nicholas Lazarevitch.
Their defeat by the Bolsheviks convinced the group that anarchists needed a stronger political structure, including political factions, a militia, and an executive committee. They began publishing Dielo Truda in 1925, and in the following year published a definitive and influential platformist pamphlet titled Organizational Platform of the General Union of Anarchists (Draft).
Soon, pressure from Stalinists and French authorities drove them to relocate from Paris to Chicago.The journal was published under the title Dielo Truda until 1939, when it merged with an anarcho-syndicalist journal to become Dielo Trouda-Probuzhdenie. Gregori Maximoff edited this publication until 1950.Dielo Truda promoted a platformist model that elicited a critical response from Errico Malatesta, Sébastien Faure, Alexander Berkman, and some other anarchists. They labeled it authoritarian, and therefore contrary to anarchism. Although most contemporary anarchist thinkers reacted with ambivalence, platformism resurged in the 1950s, and there are numerous Platform-influenced anarchist organizations today, such as Common Struggle (Common Struggle - Libertarian Communist Federation formerly the North Eastern Federation of Anarchist Communists) in the United States, and the Workers Solidarity Movement in Ireland.Especifismo
Especifismo (Portuguese: [eʃpesiˈfiʒmu], "specifism") is one of the two main forms of anarchist activism championed by FARJ (Federação Anarquista do Rio de Janeiro) and other South American anarchist organizations, the other being social insertion. Especifismo emerged as a result of anarchist experiences in South America over the last half of the 20th century starting with the Federación Anarquista Uruguaya (FAU), which was founded in 1956 by anarchists who saw the need for an organization which was specifically anarchist.Federación Anarco-Comunista de Argentina
The Anarchist-Communist Federation of Argentina (FACA in Spanish) is a federal anarchist political organization founded in 2010 that comprises 3 zones: Columna Libertaria Joaquin Penina from Rosario, Santa Fe, Columna Libertaria Errico Malatesta from Buenos Aires city, and the Columna Libertaria Buenaventura Durruti from West of Buenos Aires, in the Greater Buenos Aires.Its main fronts of public social struggles are the unionized and the unemployed worker movements. Its current ideology is specifism, and is considered socialist and revolutionary. Although it shares the name with an anarchist organization from the 1930s, it's not considered as a continuation of it. Its public appearances emphasize the comeback of a committed social anarchism.François Le Levé
François Le Levé (1882-1945), was born in Locmiquélic, Morbihan. Militant anarcho-syndicalist. Le Levé was one of fifteen anarchists who signed The Manifesto of the Sixteen, along with Peter Kropotkin, Jean Grave and others, favoring the Allies during World War I. (Overwhelmingly, anarchists refused to take sides, opposing the killing in favor of class war; see, for example, Errico Malatesta.)
A member of the French Resistance during World War II, Le Leve was captured and interned. He died while traveling home after being liberated.International Anarchist Congress of Amsterdam
The International Anarchist Congress of Amsterdam took place from 24 August to 31 August 1907. It gathered delegates from 14 different countries, among which important figures of the anarchist movement, including Errico Malatesta, Luigi Fabbri, Benoît Broutchoux, Pierre Monatte, Amédée Dunois, Emma Goldman, Rudolf Rocker, Christiaan Cornelissen, etc.Italian Anarchist Federation
The Italian Anarchist Federation (Italian: Federazione Anarchica Italiana) is an Italian anarchist federation of autonomous anarchist groups all over Italy. The Italian Anarchist Federation was founded in 1945 in Carrara. It adopted an "Associative Pact" and the "Anarchist Program" of Errico Malatesta. It decided to publish the weekly Umanità Nova, retaking the name of the journal published by Errico Malatesta.
Inside the FAI a tendency grouped as (GAAP - Anarchist Groups of Proletarian Action) led by Pier Carlo Masini was founded which "proposed a Libertarian Party with an anarchist theory and practice adapted to the new economic, political and social reality of post-war Italy, with an internationalist outlook and effective presence in the workplaces...The GAAP allied themselves with a similar development within the French Anarchist movement, the Federation Communiste Libertaire, whose leading light was Georges Fontenis."In the IX Congress of the Italian Anarchist Federation in Carrara, 1965 a group decided to split off from this organization and creates the Gruppi di Iniziativa Anarchica which was mostly composed of individualist anarchists who disagreed with important aspects of the "Associative Pact" and was critical of anarcho-syndicalism. The GIA published the bi-weekly L'Internazionale. Another group split off from the Anarchist Federation and regrouped as Gruppi Anarchici Federati. The GAF later starts publishing Interrogations and A Rivista Anarchica.
In 1968 in Carrara the International of Anarchist Federations was founded during an international Anarchist conference by the three existing European federations of France, the Italian FAI and the Iberian Anarchist Federation as well as the Bulgarian federation in French exile.
In the early seventies a platformist tendency emerged within the Italian Anarchist Federation which argued for more strategic coherence and social insertion in the workers movement while rejecting the synthesist "Associative Pact" of Malatesta which the FAI adhered to. These groups started organizing themselves outside the FAI in organizations such as O.R.A. from Liguria which organized a Congress attended by 250 delegates of groups from 60 locations. In 1986, the Congress of ORA/UCAT adopted the name Federation of Anarchist Communists.
In December 2010, several news sources erroneously reported that the FAI had claimed responsibility for a series of mail bombs delivered to foreign embassies in Rome. Other media outlets attributed the bombs to another group, the insurrectionist Informal Anarchist Federation.Letino
Letino (Campanian: Letinë) is a comune and small village in the province of Caserta, in Campania, southern Italy.
It was one of the villages liberated by the Italian Libertarian Communist Insurrection of 1877 by Errico Malatesta, Carlo Cafiero, Pietro Cesare Ceccarelli, the Russian Stepniak and 30 other comrades. Another village in the same province, Gallo Matese, was also involved.Luigi Fabbri
Luigi Fabbri (23 December 1877 – 24 June 1935) was an Italian anarchist, writer, agitator and propagandist who was charged with defeatism during the World War I. He was the father of Luce Fabbri.
Born in Fabriano (Ancona), Italy in 1877, Fabbri was first sentenced for anarchist activities at the age of 16 in Ancona, and spent many years in and out of Italian prisons. Fabbri was a long time and prolific contributor to the anarchist press in Europe and later South America, including co-editing, along with Errico Malatesta, the paper L'Agitazione. He helped edit the paper "Università popolare" in Milan. Fabbri was a delegate to the International Anarchist Congress held in Amsterdam in 1907. He died in Montevideo, Uruguay in 1935.Malatesta (film)
Malatesta is a 1970 German drama film directed by Peter Lilienthal. It was entered into the 1970 Cannes Film Festival. It contains some biographical aspects of the life and thoughts of the Italian anarchist Errico Malatesta.Max Nettlau
Max Heinrich Hermann Reinhardt Nettlau (German: [ˈnɛtlaʊ]; 30 April 1865 – 23 July 1944) was a German anarchist and historian. Although born in Neuwaldegg (today part of Vienna) and raised in Vienna, he lived there until the annexation to Nazi Germany in 1938. Max Nettlau retained his Prussian (later German) nationality throughout his life. A student of the Welsh language he spent time in London where he joined the Socialist League and met William Morris. While in London he met anarchists such as Errico Malatesta and Peter Kropotkin whom he remained in contact with for the rest of his life. He also helped to found Freedom Press for whom he wrote for many years.
In the 1890s realising that a generation of socialist and anarchist militants from the mid-19th century was passing away and their archives of writings and correspondence being destroyed, he concentrated his effort and a recent modest inheritance from his father on acquiring and rescuing such collections from destruction. He also made many interviews of veteran militants for posterity. He wrote biographies of many famous anarchists, including Mikhail Bakunin, Élisée Reclus, and Errico Malatesta. He also wrote a seven volume history of anarchism.
His extensive collection or archives was sold to the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam in 1935. He lived continuously in Amsterdam from 1938 where he worked on cataloging the archive for the Institute. He died there suddenly from stomach cancer in 1944, without ever being harassed.Socialist Revolutionary Anarchist Party
The Socialist Revolutionary Anarchist Party (Italian: Partito Socialista Anarchico Rivoluzionario) was a short-lived Italian political party.
Founded in January 1891 at the Congress of Capolago, at which around 80 delegates from Italian socialist and anarchist groups participated. Notable figures included, Errico Malatesta, Luigi Galleani, Amilcare Cipriani, Andrea Costa and Filippo Turati. Malatesta envisioned the PSAR as the Italian federation of a new, anarchist and socialist, International Workingmen's Association.
The PSAR largely fell into the Partito Socialista Rivoluzionario Italiano (PSRI). This organization was a founding member of the Partito Socialista dei Lavoratori Italiani (PSLI) in 1892, which by 1895 had been renamed the Partito Socialista Italiano (PSI) and, amid sectarian struggles, ejected its anarchist wing.Stateless society
A stateless society is a society that is not governed by a state, or, especially in common American English, has no government. In stateless societies, there is little concentration of authority; most positions of authority that do exist are very limited in power and are generally not permanently held positions; and social bodies that resolve disputes through predefined rules tend to be small. Stateless societies are highly variable in economic organization and cultural practices.While stateless societies were the norm in human prehistory, few stateless societies exist today; almost the entire global population resides within the jurisdiction of a sovereign state. In some regions nominal state authorities may be very weak and wield little or no actual power. Over the course of history most stateless peoples have been integrated into the state-based societies around them.Some political philosophies, particularly anarchism, consider the state an unwelcome institution and stateless societies the ideal.Synthesis anarchism
Synthesis anarchism, synthesist anarchism, synthesism or synthesis federations is a form of anarchist organization that seeks diversity upon it´s participants, which tries to join anarchists of different tendencies under the principles of anarchism without adjectives. In the 1920s, this form found as its main proponents the anarcho-communists Voline and Sébastien Faure, bringing together anarchists of three main tendencies, namely individualist anarchism, anarchist communism and anarcho-syndicalism. It is the main principle behind the anarchist federations grouped around the contemporary global International of Anarchist Federations.